Unfortunately in the United States and other countries there is no formal licensing requirements for photographers to prove their professionalism, thus anyone can purchase a disposable camera and print a few inkjet business cards and call themselves a professional photographer, or for that matter a corporate CEO.

This is a sad fact about photography in the United States and it’s often the culprit of negative stereotyping of photographers, especially in the glamour genre and it’s more prevalent today, thanks to digital technology and the Internet. While legit organizations like ASMP, APA, PPA, NPPA, etc., do exist, so do paper-printing, credential mills that basically are laughable at best.

Glamour photography is so popular today, thanks to the Internet and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Lindsey Lohan, Jennifer Aniston, Paris Hilton, Angelina Jolie, etc. who are practically on the cover of every magazine, from Playboy to Vanity Fair. After all, celebrities put glamour photography on the map in the early 1920’s.

This popularity of glamour photography, digital technology and the fact that people fuel on self-esteem building through photography has created a conducive environment for “GWC’s,” or what is known on the Internet as “Guys with Cameras,” many who call themselves professional photographers and do nothing but dilute the meaning of glamour photography. So-called “professional photographers” are popping up at the rate of a dime a dozen with no mandatory scrutiny for using the title, “professional.”

While we all start from the bottom and some GWC’s are genuinely interested in advancing their photographic skills, there still are others that belong in a strip bar and not in a studio. Sadly, some models can’t spot these types of characters and often fall into uncomfortable situations that can affect future, valid photographic shoots.

It’s the nature of the beast of glamour and sometimes fashion photography, there are those with honest intentions and those with ulterior motives—ultimately models will pay the price upfront while photographers become more scrutinized over time and to help reduce this growing phenomena, professional photographers should give advice to potential models while educating beginning photographers about the ethics of the business.

As an example, my advice to models,

(1) Always “Google” any photographer who contacts you—Google is free! Just enter their name, then hit enter and look through the results—remember, not everything on the Internet is true or factual, but if you see a negative trend, then there could be problems. Do thorough research and never be afraid to ask a photographer about any of the search results you find. Use common sense and educate yourself on who you’ll be working with and even where you’ll be working.
(2) Always ask for references, especially references of other models that worked with the photographer asking you to pose for him/her. If a photographer cannot provide you at least three (female) models (including their contact information, make sure the photographer provides you at least two with telephone numbers, not “Hotmail, YahooMail, GMail” addresses– call them up and speak to them over the phone) then take a chaperone with you to the shoot or run! Professional photographers never like escorts at a shoot, so you’ll have to out weigh the credentials and references with any risk.
(3) Never assume anything, the word assume broken down means to make an ass out of you and me, ass/u/me. Use common sense, get advice and references from other models too.
(4) Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet. The best-credentialed photographers are found on Wikipedia.com and obviously in publications with tearsheets in their portfolios. While legit photographers that don’t fit in the above statement do exist, do your research and never stray alone to a shoot if a photographer has no verifiable creditability. Photographers with credentials don’t allow a tag-along entourage.
(5) Always do research, both through the internet and through traditional telephone research. If it’s to good to be true, it’s more likely a scam—run!
(6) If someone claims to be a model agent, ask for their license, most states require this. If they claim they are a model’s agent/manager and ask to photograph you, say, “No thank you!” Photographers should be photographers, agents should be agents, in the real world of modeling photographers are not model agents.

While there are many great tips and advice on modeling and modeling scams, the above relate to the more common scenarios, especially with the Internet and GWC’s.

Now, photographers, my advice to gain credibility, shoot, shoot, shoot and build your credentials, even if you “string” for the local paper. Be professional, on time and deliver. If you don’t feel the passion in photography, hang it up! Photography is about feeling the passion, a marriage of the minds between you and model without any physical contact.

While there is no official license requirement for anyone to claim they are a professional photographer, if you are a model, look for the obvious, do they have a professional website, studio, tearsheets, etc.? If not, then proceed with caution. That’s not to say beginners don’t have honest intentions, it’s to say, always do research before proceeding if you are a model or anyone answering to a photographer for a shoot, especially with the Internet today, anyone can claim they are highly-credentialed. Life is too short to walk carelessly in the cyber world of modeling and photography. Thanks, rg sends!

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